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New Study Suggests Ketogenic Diets Require Breaks

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The ketogenic diet, known for its weight loss and diabetes management benefits, might not be as beneficial when followed strictly over a long period. A new study led by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) has revealed that continuous long-term adherence to a ketogenic diet may lead to the development of aged, or senescent, cells in normal tissues, particularly affecting heart and kidney function. In contrast, an intermittent ketogenic diet, incorporating planned breaks, did not exhibit these pro-inflammatory effects.

The study suggests that the positive effects of a ketogenic diet could be enhanced by taking regular breaks. The research, conducted by David Gius, MD, PhD, and his team, highlights the potential long-term consequences of uninterrupted ketogenic diets. Gius, an assistant dean of research and professor at UT Health San Antonio, emphasized that with around 13 million Americans following a ketogenic diet, it is crucial to incorporate breaks to avoid potential health risks.

Cellular Senescence and Diet

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Published in the journal Science Advances, the study titled “Ketogenic diet induces p53-dependent cellular senescence in multiple organs” explored the effects of ketogenic diets on cellular aging. The researchers found that mice subjected to continuous ketogenic diets at various ages showed signs of cellular senescence in multiple organs, including the heart and kidney. However, these effects were mitigated when the mice were treated with senolytics, a class of small molecules that destroy senescent cells, or when the diet was followed intermittently.

The findings have significant clinical implications, suggesting that planned breaks in the ketogenic diet can prevent the pro-inflammatory effects associated with cellular senescence. This insight is particularly important given the diet’s popularity and the potential risks of long-term, uninterrupted adherence. The study underscores the importance of balance and moderation in dietary interventions to maximize health benefits while minimizing adverse effects.

The ketogenic diet is characterized by high fat and low carbohydrate intake, leading to the production of ketones, chemicals produced by the liver when breaking down fats. While the diet has been shown to improve certain health conditions and is favored for weight loss, it also has reported pro-inflammatory effects. The new study highlights the need to consider the long-term impacts of sustained ketogenic diets on cellular health and organ function.

To optimize the benefits of a ketogenic diet, it is recommended to take periodic breaks. This approach can help mitigate the risks of cellular senescence and maintain overall health. The study’s findings suggest that, like other nutrient interventions, the ketogenic diet should be managed carefully to avoid potential long-term consequences.

The research from UT Health San Antonio reveals crucial insights into the effects of long-term ketogenic diets on cellular health. By incorporating planned breaks, individuals can continue to reap the benefits of the ketogenic diet while minimizing the risk of adverse effects on the heart, kidneys, and other organs. This balanced approach can help ensure the diet remains a safe and effective strategy for weight loss and diabetes management.

Have you ever done keto? How did it work for you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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